UPDATE: UK: Waitrose plans Little Waitrose c-store push
Waitrose believes has "right formula" in convenience
Waitrose MD Mark Price today (6 March) told just-food the upmarket UK grocer is set to accelerate the expansion of its network of Little Waitrose convenience stores.
The retailer has 42 Little Waitrose outlets and opened five more in the year to 25 January.
However, alongside its annual results, Waitrose said it plans to increase the rate of openings in the year ahead and has signalled it will open 23 more.
Speaking after Waitrose reported higher full-year sales and operating profit, Price said the board of Waitrose parent John Lewis Partnership had decided to push ahead with a faster expansion of the network.
"The partnership board has agreed now we've got a formula in Little Waitrose, which we can roll out. As a consequence of that and after three years of hard trialling, we know where we can make money and we know which elements of the trial have been less successful," Price said. "That gives us the confidence to increase the speed of our roll out, which we are all very pleased about."
The convenience channel is an avenue of growth in a challenging UK grocery market and a number of the country's major food retailers are continuing to expand their networks of smaller stores.
Last month, Sainsbury's said it would open 60 new convenience stores in London and the South East over the next 12 months.
However, Price brushed off the suggestion that competition was behind Waitrose's decision to up the pace of its Little Waitrose expansion.
"No, we're a long-term business. It's about the right shops in the right place, rather than opening lots of shops," he said. "It's also a question of the pace at which this organisation can grow and remain true to its values. One of primary things we have to consider is what's the right pace of growth for us to maintain the partner and customer experience. In part, that's constrained by capital but more it's constrained by our ability to develop and grow the right kind of people to run our businesses."
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